Starting with an invocation to the organization’s matron deity Coventina, the Covenant of the Goddess (COG) began their two-day annual business meeting, known as the Grand Council. Held during their yearly MerryMeet festival, this year in Indianapolis, the Grand Council is an exercise in how a mature Pagan organization perpetuates itself and makes important policy decisions. On their 35th anniversary, this respected institution for those who practice various forms of religious Witchcraft faces issues dealing with stagnation, communication, and their own success.
The Grand Council is something unique. All decisions are made by consensus, and representatives from local regional councils, member covens, and solitary members get a say before anything can move forward. This can be contentious at times, but is surprisingly effective at forming and strengthening group identity and unity.
“Consensus wasn’t always easy to pass on (unless you had been raised in a Quaker setting, where it is the usual method of decision-making) but we stuck with it, and were often rewarded when difficult issues were solved in ways that had broad-based and sometimes unexpected support, rather than causing schisms which could have ended the organization.” – Anna Korn, Membership Officer of the Northern California Local Council, Covenant of the Goddess
“The true magic of COG’s consensus process is that, in a group of over 100 covens from all traditions and all parts of the country in which any representative in the room could stop the process with a veto, we can only move forward though the shared good will and sense of shared Wiccan identity among all here. And more forward we do… making decision after decision.” – Don Frew, National Interfaith Representative, Covenant of the Goddess
As a spectator, what struck me amid the budget requests and fine-tuning of proposal language, was the large amount of good this Witch/Wiccan group does that goes largely unnoticed.
COG members are currently involved in advances in Pagan military chaplaincy, Pagan prison chaplaincy, interfaith in a number of contexts, and positive activism on a number of issues. However, the membership is graying, there are complaints of a stagnant growth rate, and there’s a sense that they are victims of their own success.
“Many people don’t realize that many of the freedoms Witches enjoy today are the result of many years of legal, cultural, and societal battles successfully waged by COG and other groups. The more successful we’ve been, the less some uninformed Witches see a need for us. In this, we’re in the same boat as many feminist organizations” – Don Frew, National Interfaith Representative, Covenant of the Goddess
Right now there are several proposals and a reawakened energy among members behind improving communications and outreach within the organization. There is a hope of interacting with a new generation of Witches, instilling a new ethos of the coven system at a time when eclectic solitary individualism rules the day, and turning part of their focus back toward the Pagan community they’ve worked for so long on the behalf of.
Tomorrow are elections for their national Board of Directors, at the end of which there will be a new First Officer. I’ll be reporting on that, and hopefully doing a short interview with the winner to talk about their vision for COG.